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ISS

NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams Sets New US Space Endurance Record With 521 Days (cbsnews.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Space station commander Jeff Williams set a new U.S. space endurance record Wednesday, his 521st day in orbit over four missions, eclipsing the 520-day record set earlier this year by astronaut Scott Kelly at the end of his nearly one-year stay aboard the lab complex. Williams now moves up to 17th on the list of the world's most experienced astronauts and cosmonauts. The overall record is held by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who logged 878 days in orbit over five missions. Williams, Soyuz TMA-20M commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Oleg Skripochka were launched to the space station March 18. They plan to return to Earth Sept. 6 (U.S. time), landing in Kazakhstan to close out a 172-day mission. At landing, Williams will have logged 534 days aloft, moving him up to 14th on the space endurance list. Williams first flew in space in 2000 aboard the shuttle Atlantis, the third shuttle flight devoted to station assembly. He served as a flight engineer aboard the station in 2006 and completed a second long-duration stay in 2010, serving as a flight engineer and then commander of Expedition 22. "I wanted to congratulate you on passing me up here in total number of days in space," Kelly radioed Williams Wednesday. "It's great to see another record broken. [...] But I do have one question for you. And my question is, do you have another 190 days in you?" Kelly was referring to the time Williams' current mission would have to be extended to equal Kelly's U.S. single-flight record. Williams laughed, saying "190 days. That question's not for me, that's for my wife!"
Mars

NanoRacks Plans To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org) 128

An anonymous reader writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters. For more details, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, and Mike Johnson, NanoRacks' Chief Designer. You can read their responses here.
ISS

Astronauts Successfully Install Parking Spot At ISS (phys.org) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: With more private spaceship traffic expected at the International Space Station in the coming years, two U.S. astronauts embarked on a spacewalk Friday to install a special parking spot for them. Americans Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins switched their spacesuits to internal battery power at 8:04 (1204 GMT) and floated outside the orbiting laboratory to begin the work of attaching the first of two international docking adaptors. The spacewalkers finished the task in just over two hours. "With that, we have a new port of call," said NASA commentator Rob Navias, as the space station flew over Singapore at 10:40 am (1440 GMT). NASA describes the docking adaptor as a "metaphorical gateway to a future" that will allow a new generation of U.S. spacecraft -- the first since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 -- to carry astronauts to the space station. The second docking adaptor is expected to be installed in 2018. Built by Boeing, the circular adaptor measures around 42 inches (one meter) tall and about 63 inches wide. The adaptors will work with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, two spaceships under construction that are planned to ferry astronauts to the space station. The docking adaptor is more sophisticated than past equipment because it will allow automatic parking instead of the current grapple and berthing process, which is managed by astronauts.
ISS

Astronauts To Install A Parking Space For SpaceX and Boeing At The ISS (popularmechanics.com) 77

Since Boeing and SpaceX will begin sending NASA astronauts into orbit next year, the International Space Station is going to need a place for them to park. Astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will journey outside the ISS on Friday to install a new docking adapter for these two private companies. Popular Mechanics reports: "Installing these adapters is a necessary step in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which seeks to spur development of commercial crew spacecraft. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 8:05 a.m. on Friday, and live coverage will start at 6:30. This will be Williams' fourth spacewalk, and Rubins' first." In the meantime, you can watch this video describing exactly what the spacewalk will entail.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Lands Falcon 9 Rocket On Solid Ground For the Second Time (theverge.com) 103

SpaceX successfully landed another Falcon 9 rocket after launching the vehicle into space on Sunday evening from Florida. The Verge reports: Shortly after takeoff, the vehicle touched down at SpaceX's Landing Complex 1 -- a ground-based landing site that the company leases at the Cape. It marks the second time SpaceX has pulled off this type of ground landing, and the fifth time SpaceX has recovered one of its rockets post-launch. The feat was accomplished a few minutes before the rocket's second stage successfully put the company's Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station later this week. It's also the first time this year SpaceX has attempted to land one of its rockets on land. For the past six launches, each rocket has tried landing on an autonomous drone ship floating in the ocean. That's because drone ship landings require a lot less fuel to execute than ground landings.
Space

Axiom Plans A New Private-Sector Outpost in Space (blastingnews.com) 28

A seed-funded company named Axiom wants to build a private-sector outpost in orbit by launching a new module for the International Space Station, according to an article on Space News. Once on the station, Axiom Space would use it for commercial purposes, ranging from research to tourism. [Former space station manager] Suffredini said that it would also be available for use by NASA when the company is not using it, helping the process of transitioning research done on the International Space Station to future private stations. Research hardware elsewhere in the station could eventually be moved to this module to allow its continued use after the station's retirement.
Slashdot reader MarkWhittington shares an article from Blasting News: In the meantime, Nanoracks, a company that is already handling some of the logistics for the ISS, is proposing a commercial airlock for the ISS. The development of commercial space stations, as well as commercial spacecraft such as the SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing Starliner, constitutes NASA's long-term strategy of handing off low-Earth orbit to the private sector while it concentrates on deep space exploration.
Earth

ISS Completes 100,000th Orbit of Earth (phys.org) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The International Space Station, the space laboratory that showcases cooperation between Russia and the United States, on Monday orbited Earth for the 100,000th time, Russian mission control said. Traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) and a speed of about 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour, the space station circles the Earth once every 90 minutes. The ISS has now traveled 2.6 billion miles "or about the distance of 10 round trips to Mars," NASA said on the station's official Twitter feed. From two modules, it has grown to 15 modules, occupying a space the size of a football pitch and represents around $100 billion in investment. "Such a long lifespan of the ISS proves that mankind has the necessary technologies for constant presence in orbit, that we have the potential for further space exploration," said Matyushin.
Space

Astronauts Won't Be Flying To Space In Boeing's Starliner Until 2018 (theverge.com) 89

An anonymous reader writes: The Boeing Starliner, one of two new spacecraft meant to break the Russian stranglehold on sending people to orbit, has hit a snag. Originally scheduled to start flying next year, the Starliner won't carry a crewed mission to the International Space Station until 2018 at the earliest. Six years is long enough. Ever since the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle NASA has been pushing for privately built craft capable of ferrying astronauts to orbit, which would let the agency buy American-made ships and end its dependency on renting seats aboard Russian spacecraft. The Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon were chosen, and 2017 was to be the year. But while SpaceX has sent its ship to the ISS on multiple uncrewed cargo resupply missions, the Starliner won't make such trips until 2017 and won't carry people until 2018 at the earliest. SpaceX maintains that it will be able to send crews to orbit in 2017.GeekWire explains: "For Boeing to shift its crewed test flight from 2017 to 2018 isn't as much of a slip as it might sound: The company's earlier schedule had called for the visit to the space station to take place in mid-December."
ISS

British Astronaut Competes in London Marathon from ISS (cnn.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: "British astronaut Tim Peake became the first man to complete a marathon in space on Sunday, running the classic 26.2 mile distance while strapped to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station..." reports Reuters. "The 44-year-old spaceman saw London's roads under his feet in real time on an iPad as, 250 miles below him, more than 37,000 runners simultaneously pounded the streets." Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, two earth-bound runners ran the marathon wearing space suits.
CNN notes that Peake "ran the race for real in 1999," but this time competed with avatars that represented actual runners who were using the Run Social app. His zero-gravity run took longer -- more than three and a half hours -- while a Kenyan runner ultimately won the race, completing the whole 26.2-mile course in just two hours, three minutes and four seconds, the second-fastest time ever recorded.
ISS

NASA Feed 'Goes Down As Horseshoe UFO Appears On ISS Live Cam' (mirror.co.uk) 412

schwit1 quotes a report from Mirror Online: NASA has been accused of an alien cover up after a live International Space Station feed appearing to show a horseshoe UFO suddenly went down. Conspiracy theorists are having a field day over the sighting of the strange U-shaped object hovering on the horizon of the the ISS. They claim NASA 'cut the live feed' after the glowing blue object flew too close to the space station. Some have even gone as far to say NASA's funding should be cut over their 'great alien deception.' Scott Waring of UFO Sightings Daily first discovered the UFO. He passed the footage on to Tyler Glockner who uploaded the video to his YouTube channel secureteam10. What do you think: is it an alien spaceship or something more likely such as a reflection from a station window?
NASA

NASA: Top 10 Space Junk Missions (networkworld.com) 68

coondoggie writes: NASA' s Orbital Debris Program Office said that by far the source of the greatest amount of orbital debris remains the Fengyun-1C spacecraft, which was the target of a People's Republic of China anti-satellite test in January 2007. Much more debris is now floating around Earth's atmosphere since the six years NASA last looked at the top 10 space junk missions. The space agency says that 10 missions out of the 5,160 space missions that have launched since 1957 account for approximately one-third of all cataloged objects now in Earth orbit. NASA said that the second and fourth most significant satellite breakups are Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 spacecraft, which were involved in the first ever accidental satellite collision February 2009.
Government

How George W. Bush and NASA Saved SpaceX From Financial Ruin (blastingnews.com) 224

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: Elon Musk and the people at SpaceX are rightly basking in the afterglow of finally landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a drone barge in the Atlantic. The same flight delivered an expandable module built by Bigelow Aerospace to the International Space Station. But, as Ars Technica points out, the launch, landing, and arrival at the space station would not have taken place had it not been for the generosity of NASA. George W. Bush began the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which commercialized first cargo and then crew flights to and from the ISS. Four years later, SpaceX, having endured a number of launch failures of its small Falcon 1 rocket, was running out of cash. They were teetering on the brink of financial ruin as they were trying to develop a much larger and more complex Falcon 9 that would compete with more established launch vehicles such as the Atlas 5 and the Delta 4. Then NASA announced the initial contracts for COTS cargo flights. SpaceXâ(TM)s share was $1.6 billion. The NASA contract saved the company and allowed it to press on with building the Falcon 9 and the Dragon and then successfully compete for the Commercial Crew contracts.
ISS

SpaceX Delivers World's First Inflatable Room For Astronauts (go.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship which launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday delivered the world's first inflatable room for astronauts. It arrived at the ISS on Sunday after station astronauts used a robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 250 miles above Earth. The compartment should swell to the size of a small bedroom once filled with air next month. It will be attached to the space station this Saturday, but won't be inflated until the end of May. NASA envisions inflatable habitats in a couple decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be restricted from the six on-board astronauts while NASA tests the chamber to see how it performs. The rocket used to launch the cargo ship successfully landed on a floating drone ship for the first time ever. It was the second time SpaceX successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space.
Open Source

Infographic: Ubuntu Linux Is Everywhere 185

prisoninmate writes: To celebrate the launch of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, due for release later this month, on April 21, Canonical put together an interesting infographic, showing the world how popular Ubuntu is. From the infographic, it looks like there are over 60 million Ubuntu images launched by Docker users, 14 million Vagrant images of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS from HashiCorp, 20 million launches of Ubuntu instances during 2015 in public and private clouds, as well as bare metal, and 2 million new Ubuntu Cloud instances launched in November 2015. Ubuntu is used on the International Space Station, on the servers of popular online services like Netflix, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, Dropbox, PayPal, Wikipedia, and Instagram, in Google, Tesla, George Hotz, and Uber cars. It is also employed at Bloomberg, Weta Digital and Walmart, at the Brigham Young University to control the Mars Rover, and it is even behind the largest supercomputer in the world.
NASA

New NASA Launch Control Software Late, Millions Over Budget (go.com) 205

schwit1 writes: The launch control software NASA is writing from scratch for its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is way behind schedule and way over budget. According to ABC News, "Development of this new launch control software is now projected to exceed $207 million, 77 percent above 2012 projections. The software won't be ready until fall 2017, instead of this summer as planned, and important capabilities like automatic failure detection, are being deferred, the audit noted. The system is vital, needed to control pumps, motors, valves and other ground equipment during countdowns and launches, and to monitor data before and during liftoff. NASA decided to write its own computer code to "glue together" existing software products a decade ago -- while space shuttles still were flying and commercial shippers had yet to service the space station. Both delivery companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, rely on commercial software, the audit noted."

In other words, even though NASA could have simply purchased already available software that other launch companies were using successfully, the agency decided to write its own. And that decision really didn't come before the arrival of these commercial companies, because when it was made a decade ago that was exactly the time that SpaceX was beginning to build its rocket. This is simply more proof that SLS is nothing more than a pork-laden waste of money designed not to explore space but to generate non-productive jobs in congressional districts.

Earth

Behind the Scenes of NASA's Orbital ATK ISS Resupply Mission (hothardware.com) 25

Reader MojoKid sheds more light on NASA's unmanned cargo ship: The Orbital ATK CRS-6 mission that launched last week at NASA Cape Canaveral, Florida not only delivered supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), but also carried a number of research projects on NASA's Cygnus spacecraft. On board the CRS-6 were Gecko Grippers, which attempt to mimic the adhesion properties of gecko feet. Through the use of nanomaterials, Gecko Grippers can be repeatedly applied and removed from a surface without losing their adhesive properties via the use of van der Waals forces. They are also unaffected by temperature, pressure or radiation. Also in tow for the mission are supplies for the Saffire Experiment, which will be the largest man-made fire in space with data beamed back to earth so researchers can understand its properties and results. It's also impressive to see the NASA VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), which is one of the biggest structures in the world covering 8 acres and measuring 525 ft tall, as well as the SLS Crawler, which is designed to move large spacecraft components supporting up to 18 million pounds and has been utilized for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
ISS

Unmanned Cargo Ship Reaches ISS On Resupply Mission (telegraph.co.uk) 51

An anonymous reader writes: NASA partner Orbital ATK reports an unmanned cargo shipped has successfully docked at the ISS, delivering 7,900 lbs (3.6 metric tons) worth of supplies for the crew of six astronauts. The supplies consisted of food, water, clothes, and materials needed for scientific research such as a new 3D printer and Gecko Gripper. The operation was over by 1452 GMT as the space station's robotic arm, operated by crew members, captured Cygnus and guided it into its berthing port. Orbital has launched five supply missions to the ISS as part of a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. "Our flexible Cygnus spacecraft has a lot of work left to do. Following its stay at the ISS, and for the first time, we will undertake three experiments onboard the unmanned spacecraft," said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK's Space Systems Group.

SpaceX Sets April 8 For Next Dragon Launch 42

schwit1 writes: SpaceX has scheduled April 8 for the next Falcon 9 launch, set to carry its first Dragon capsule since the launch failure last year. Though this is the most important news contained by the article, its focus is instead on the various preparations that SpaceX is doing at its Texas test facility to prepare for this launch as well as the increased launch rate required for the company to catch up on its schedule. Note that the Dragon launch will also be significant in that it will be carrying Bigelow's inflatable test module for ISS, built for only $17 million in less than two years. NASA, ESA, or JAXA would have required at least half a billion and several years to have accomplished the same.
ISS

Two Astronauts Return To Earth After Record 340 Days In ISS (technews.mobi) 78

An anonymous reader writes: U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian astronaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Wednesday after spending a year aboard the ISS, conducting experiments for future missions to Mars. Mikhail Kornienko, 55, and Scott Kelly, 52, completed the longest uninterrupted period aboard the ISS since the station was deployed in 2000. Kelly, who has made four trips to the ISS, also breaks the record for cumulative time in space by an American, with 540 days. Kelly and Kornienko performed this mission to study the biological and psychological effects of long stays in space in order to prepare for future missions to Mars in 2030 or sooner. During their stay at the station, both were frequently subjected to medical examination and a battery of tests to study the long-term effects of micro-gravity on the human body.

SpaceX Rocket Launch Postponed Again (www.cbc.ca) 30

ClickOnThis writes with a CBC report that SpaceX has "called off a planned launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a communications satellite less than two minutes before blastoff from Florida on Thursday, citing a technical problem. It marked the second straight day that Elon Musk's privately owned Space Exploration Technologies had postponed the launch."

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